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Using Focus Area to extract a subject

From: Photoshop for Photographers: 2014 Creative Cloud Updates

Video: Using Focus Area to extract a subject

In this movie we'll be working on a small project which is a bit more complex Now that we've done that.

Using Focus Area to extract a subject

In this movie we'll be working on a small project which is a bit more complex and advanced, so that we can have a better understanding of how we can use Focus Area. Here our project hinges on using Focus Area to build a selection of the two subjects in this photograph: my daughter Anika word and her friend Anna. We'll then refine that selection and then turn it into a mask so that we can extract these two kids from this environment, and position them in this other environment which we have here, the Snow Cap Mountain which we have as our background layer.

Let's begin by targeting the top layer which is called Focus Area Mask. Next, we'll navigate to the Select pull-down menu and we'll choose Focus Area. Click on that menu item. Then we want to cross our fingers and hope that Photoshop gives us a good selection. Here, with the auto option turned on, it's decent, but we have some gaps. We're missing the shirts, gloves, a little bit of the ski pants below. So we need to drag the slider what direction? To the right.

Drag it to the right, and that will then help us to fill in some of those gaps that we have there. Now when it comes to fine tuning this and removing the subjects from the environment, what we're going to need to do is to spend some time working with our two tools here, the brushes that we have. One with a plus icon. Another with a minus icon. Lets select the brush with a minus icon. Then, what we want to do is change the brush size. I'll make the brush quite a bit bigger and we'll go ahead and paint over the area like this out of focus area in the background that we want to get rid of and we'll paint over the area which is in focus in the foreground.

As we do this, invariably we'll make a mistake. So we'll paint over this, it will help us to remove a lot but it also removes something we didn't want it to, like the pants right here. No big deal, don't worry about that just now. For the time being just focus in on cleaning this up and thinking about how you can extract the subject from this environment. When you are working with an area where the focus isn't that shallow, like this image doesn't have that shallow of a depth of a field. You're going to need to do some back and forth work where you subtract something then you go back and you add a little bit back in.

You'll see what I mean here in just a minute. For now, I am using a big brush and I am just subtracting a lot from the image. Now lets zoom in. I'll press Cmd+ then if I want to add the leg back in, grab the brush with the plus icon. And just click over that and it will bring it back. If you want to go back to subtracting, choose this brush. Now if you want to worker faster, rather than always clicking on the little brush, you can tap the e key. That allows you to toggle between those two tools. Really handy shortcut.

All right. Let's choose a smaller brush size to do some more detail work. Here I'm going to go with the really teeny little brush. Often if you have a teeny brush, you can get in there and you can make a lot better selection that you're building up. Here even with the small brush it created a little bit of a mistake for me. No biggie. That's going to happen. Just go back and paint back in what you need and as you go back and forth eventually you'll be able to build up a decent selection. So here we'll just go through this. And with some images you may realize that, you know what, this kind of work just isn't worth it.

I'm going to use a different tool a different way to select this, that's fine. But what I wanted to do here is just highlight how there are situations where it can be helpful to start with this especially if you have areas which are sharp and areas which aren't and how you can refine this by working with one brush, going back and selecting the other, and then painting over that area in order to bring it in. And also how you can paint over these areas in larger ways then you have anticipate in order to add or subtract different parts of the photograph so that you can create your selection.

All right. Well, for demo purposes I think we're getting close to having a pretty decent selection. I'm just going to add a little bit more here in a couple of areas. All right. So far so good. Next thing that I want to do is I want to refine my edges. So after having painted over these areas, let's make sure we have Soften Edge turned on, and then open up Refine Edge. Here we'll zoom out so we could see the whole photograph or at least the subjects. Now what I like to do at this point is I like to change my view to on layers.

This gets really fun because you can begin to see the subjects in the new environment. Because here we're seen through this layer to the underlying layer which is the background. Now we want to turn on smart radius and increase the radius. That already looks a lot better with the radius maybe about 1 1/2. Increase our contrast a bit as well. Then, after we've refined the edges, we want to output this to a layer mask. This will give us further flexibility. You'll see why this will be important in just one minute.

So, choose output two layer mask, then click okay. Now that we've done that. I'm going to zoom out. When we zoom out, we'll see one big flaw with my project and that is that I completely forgot to pay attention to the sky area up here. No big deal. Just grab your brush and you can choose black to paint on the mask. I want a nice big brush. We want to paint at 100% opacity. We want to target the mask, so paint on the mask, not the image. So click into your mask.

And when you paint with black on a mask, what it does is it conceals whatever's on this layer. In this case it's an image layer, so it's going to conceal this. it's going to hide all of that sky which is really good. And we can use that to clean up large areas like the sky or if we zoom in down here to these boots, what I can do is I can clean these up as well. I'll tap my left bracket key to make the brush much smaller and here I'm just going to soften the edges of the boot a little bit. And I want to do this to make this a little bit more realistic.

I'll paint with white to bring in a little bit more of the boot in a couple areas. There's kind of some strange gaps there. And, you know, there's other detail work we could do here as well like work on shadows, and color, and tone, and whatnot. Yeah, and for the most part, I just want to focus in on this step or this stage of how we can use the mask and paint on the mask in order to modify the way that this is starting to appear. And how we paint with black and white in order to clean up and improve all of these edges. All right. We can also kind of trim off any little bit of an edge if we need to and add in more as well.

All right. Well let's zoom back out so we can see the image and its entirety. Here we have these kids in a new environment. Without a lot of effort, because we worked with this tool which is called Focus Area and because we learned how to use those brushes, right, and to paint in and out different areas. Now next what we might want to do is grab the move tool and maybe reposition the subjects, or we could also work on color and tone and do other things as well. Yeah, for demo purposes, I think this is a pretty good stopping point, and here you can see how we took these subjects from one environment and how we used focus area to build a selection which we then turned into a mask so that we could extract them from that environment and position them in another.

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